While November and National Family Caregivers Month has come to a close, the holiday shopping season is in full swing! If you have a family caregiver on your holiday shopping list this year, you want to find the perfect gift — a gift that’s just the right combination of valuable, useful, heartfelt and meaningful. Caregivers are sometimes tough to buy for, because they spend so much time caring for their loved one that they don’t have much time left for themselves. When asked what they want or need, “nothing” is a common response. That’s because caregivers are so selfless that they rarely consider their own needs. The holiday season is the perfect time to give a caregiver a touching gift that gives them an opportunity to do something good for their own soul.
For caregivers, the best gifts are often the simplest — love, encouragement, a helping hand. Caregivers often don’t desire lavish, extravagant gifts. The most important things to them are the things that money can’t buy. And that makes gift-giving simple yet more challenging at the same time. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing to help you come up with the perfect gift idea for the caregiver on your list this year.
1. Gift certificates. Gift certificates might seem impersonal and effortless. But these gift certificates come straight from the heart! Use a word processing program to create a set of gift certificates for household tasks like cleaning or mowing the lawn, running errands, or even one-on-one venting sessions. It’s a personalized gift that demonstrates you care and appreciate what they’re going through. How about a gift certificate for a one-on-one date to dinner and a movie? Combine it with pre-arranged respite care by arranging for another family member or friend to sit with the care recipient while you’re out.
2. Inspirational books, poems, or paintings. There are many days when caregivers feel like throwing in the towel. It’s on those days that inspirational quotes and messages go a long way to soothe the soul. Find a book filled with inspirational quotes or short stories (Chicken Soup for the Soul comes to mind) or buy a beautiful painted canvas with an inspirational message. Not only will these gifts serve to lift the recipient’s spirits on the hardest of days, but they’ll think fondly of you and the sincere thought that went into this gift each time they look at it.
3. Virtual support group memberships or caregiving apps. There are lots of apps to help caregivers coordinate the many appointments, medication reminders, paperwork requirements and other essentials for caring for an aging loved one. Buy the caregiver in your life an app subscription or an annual membership to a caregiving resource or virtual support group. Caregiving apps typically cost just a few dollars, and support groups are often free but some resource networks do have small membership fees. Sign your loved one up for a virtual caregiver support network and wrap the username and temporary password up in a gorgeous package. It’s an inexpensive gift but one that carries deep meaning.
4. Homespun mixed CDs or playlists. Does the caregiver on your gift-giving list enjoy music? Music is an excellent stress-reliever and it’s also been shown to be highly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, making it a perfect gift for a caregiver caring for someone with cognitive impairment. Be sure to include uplifting music suited to the recipient’s taste, and include songs that have significance in her life.
5. Classes or workshops. For caregivers who enjoy learning or have a hobby that they’re passionate about, a registration for a local class or workshop is an excellent gift idea — especially when combined with backup caregiving services if you’re able to arrange for someone else to take over the caregiving duties while your gift recipient is off learning new and exciting things. There are also a growing number of local communities offering classes for caregivers, teaching coping mechanisms and sometimes disease-specific strategies for dementia caregivers or those caring for a loved one with a specific chronic disease. But if the caregiver on your list loves to cook, sign her up for a local cooking class and sign yourself up, too. Make it a fun and worry-free evening out once a week for a few weeks along with your great company! Other ideas include pottery classes, poetry workshops, quilting or sewing, and even outdoor adventures like kayaking or guided trail tours for the outdoors enthusiast.
6. A home monitoring system. One of the biggest challenges of caring for an aging loved one is taking time away from your own family. So if the caregiver on your list is spending a lot of time with an aging parent and less time at home with her family, a home monitoring system can be a lifeline. These systems range from simple to complex, some equipped with video monitoring technology so it’s easy to keep tabs on mom or dad’s safety from the other side of town. It doesn’t replace hands-on caring, but it does make the balance a bit easier.
7. A tablet or smartphone. More caregivers are relying on technology to research their loved one’s medical needs, communicate with long-distance family members to keep them in the loop, and to coordinate caregiving duties between multiple family members. A mobile device like a tablet or smartphone is a welcome gift that can make a caregiver’s life much more organized and less stressful. An e-reader is also a great gift idea for a caregiver who enjoys reading — and it provides a welcome activity to pass time while waiting at doctors’ offices.Load it up with a few books or with credit for Amazon Kindle so your recipient can choose his own reading material.
8. Lunch or dinner. They call it “comfort food” for a reason. Offer up a home-cooked meal or give a gift card to the recipient’s favorite restaurant. Another idea is to put together a gift basket filled with ingredients for easy-to-prepare meals. How about a cookbook with 10-minute crockpot meals or food you’ve prepared yourself that can be frozen and re-heated for a full, nourishing meal when time is limited?
The perfect gift for the caregiver on your gift-giving list this year won’t cost a lot of money — but it might require a little creativity. The ideas listed here are a starting point. What does your gift recipient enjoy? What are her biggest struggles? What can you offer that will lift her spirits or make her life a little easier? It’s truly the thought behind these gifts that counts, and it could be the most heartfelt and touching gift you give this season.
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Post by Angela Stringfellow